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COVID-19 response memo,7/21/20

Indiana Democratic Lawmakers Call For Special Legislative Session

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COVID-19 response memo,7/21/20

Happy Tuesday. Local, state, and federal highlights in today’s memo include:

  • McConnell Previews GOP Coronavirus Relief Bill

  • Indiana Democratic Lawmakers Call For Special Legislative Session

  • Indiana Added to New York-area Quarantine Order, Bringing Total to 31

  • Indy 500 Will Run With Crowds At Just 25% of Capacity—And Face Masks For All Attendees, IMS Says

  • Trump Aims to Bar Undocumented Immigrants From Counting Toward House Representation

  • White House Considers Drug Pricing Executive Order, Prompting GOP Pushback

  • Fishers Issues Mask Mandate That Begins Friday

  • Republican Governors Call for Liability Protection in Letter to Congress

  • OCR Issues Guidance on Civil Rights Protections During Covid-19

  • Senate HELP Committee Chairman Introduces Pandemic Preparation Legislation

  • Indiana-based Banks Didn’t Cede PPP Loans to Big Rivals

  • E.U. Leaders Agreed This Morning To An $859 Billion Coronavirus Plan

  • Biden Will Unveil a Plan Today For Universal Preschool, Child Care and Elder Care

  • White House Threatens Veto of Defense Bill Over Confederate Provision

  • Daily Numbers

    Let’s dive in.


McConnell Previews GOP Coronavirus Relief Bill


Breaking: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday provided a broad outline for what to expect in the forthcoming Republican coronavirus relief proposal, including help for schoolssmall businesses and testing.

McConnell, speaking from the Senate floor, indicated that he would soon be unveiling the Republican proposal after swapping ideas with the administration in recent weeks. McConnell, as he did during the recent two-week July 4 break, outlined the major pillars of the forthcoming Republican bill as jobshealth carekids in school and liability protections.

But he also provided new details including that Republicans would include $105 billion in help for schools, as well as provide more help for businesses, who have been hit hard as the spread of the coronavirus forced many to close or scale back.

In addition to another round of Paycheck Protection Program loans, McConnell said the Republican proposal will reimburse businesses for expenses tied to protective equipment, testing and structural changes that need to be made to protect workers and customers. Many businesses, for example, have installed plexiglass or other barriers around checkout stations.

McConnell also indicated that the bill would include another round of stimulus checks. McConnell did not provide details on who would qualify but has previously talked about Americans who make up to $40,000 per year, in particular, needing additional assistance.

McConnell did not discuss one of Trump's top priorities, a payroll tax cut, in his speech. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters on Monday night that the proposal was currently in the bill being negotiated among Republicans, but stopped short of saying it had to be in the final bill.

The payroll tax cut is one of several areas that currently divide Republicans and the White House. Some GOP senators have also appeared skeptical of the need for another round of stimulus checks, arguing that many Americans save the money instead of spending it and putting it back into the economy.

McConnell also indicated that the GOP proposal will include more funding for testing and vaccines, though he did not provide a dollar amount. Administration officials have been opposed to including more funding for testing, even as GOP senators say the country still needs to ramp up the number of tests performed per day.

The GOP bill is also expected to provide a five-year shield from lawsuits tied to coronavirus infections unless an entity — including businesses, schools, hospitals or government agencies — engaged in gross negligence or intentional misconduct.

McConnell did not provide a top-line figure for the forthcoming Republican bill. He has privately told Republican senators that he wants to keep it around $1 trillion, a figure echoed on Monday by Mnuchin. That's substantially less than the nearly $3 trillion provided by a bill that passed the House in late May, largely along party lines. (The Hill)


Indiana Democratic Lawmakers Call For Special Legislative Session


What’s New: Indiana Democratic leaders are urging Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb to call lawmakers back to the Statehouse for a special legislative session next month. The Indiana Senate Democratic CaucusIndiana House Democratic Caucus and Indiana Black Legislative Caucus announced Tuesday during a press conference that they want lawmakers to come back to Indianapolis in August to address criminal justice reformabsentee voting and oversight of how the state is spending federal funding.

The next regular session of the Indiana General Assembly does not start until January. Lawmakers will participate in summer study committees in the meantime and return for one day in November for what’s known as Organization Day, but no formal legislation is considered during those meetings.

Top lawmakers also have not yet released plans for how the regular session could be conducted safely during the pandemic, but Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane said he doesn’t think it would be difficult to safely have an in-person special session with masks and social distancing.

If a special session were to be called, Democrats would seek to pass bills that would ban chokeholdsracial profiling and no-knock warrants. All of those measures are from the criminal justice reform agenda the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus released shortly after the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd.

Democrats also would want to pass legislation that would allow all voters to cast a ballot by mail in the November election and allow absentee ballots to be collected until 6 p.m. on Election Day. Current law requires voters to have an excuse to vote by mail and ballots to be returned by noon on Election Day.

The third major topic Democrats would want to see addressed during a special session is oversight of $2.4 billion the state received through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. So far, Holcomb’s administration has allocated some of that funding toward supporting local governments, small businesses, workforce development programs, rental assistance, and contact tracing and testing. The state has also received about $1 billion in federal aid for specific state agencies.

The Democratic caucuses want even more of the federal funding to be used to expand testing, contract tracing, the housing assistance program and the small business program. Democrats are also pushing to spend the funding to support Hoosiers who have lost their employer-based health insurance and expand paid family and medical leave to cover employees exempt from the federal law. (Indianapolis Business Journal)


Indiana Added to New York-Area Quarantine Order, Bringing Total to 31


What’s New: Travelers from more than three-fifths of the country will be subject to a two-week quarantine order upon arrival in New York and New Jersey, Govs. Andrew Cuomo and Phil Murphy said Tuesday.

An additional 10 states were added to the list as Covid-19 caseloads continue to surge in much of the country, bringing the total number of affected states to 31. Minnesota was removed from the list, which is updated weekly.

Impact: Those newly added states are: Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Virginia and Washington. Context: The quarantine applies to any person coming from a state with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day rolling average or a state with a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average. (Politico)


Indy 500 Will Run With Crowds At Just 25% of Capacity—And Face Masks For All Attendees, IMS Says


What’s New: The Indianapolis 500 will run with about 25% of the fans that attend a typical race—and they will be required to wear face masks, Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials announced Tuesday.

Officials said that ticket sales for the Aug. 23 race will not be permitted after Friday, which could further limit the number of people who attend the 104th running of the Indy 500.

IMS officials said they have prepared a plan of nearly 100 pages that will provide guidelines and protocols for how the race will be run this year. The plan will be released publicly Wednesday, but officials already said that face coverings will be required for all attendees. (Indianapolis Business Journal)


Trump Aims to Bar Undocumented Immigrants From Counting Toward House Representation


What’s New: President Trump on Tuesday issued an executive order that blocks undocumented immigrants from being counted in the 2020 census for the purpose of allocating congressional representation.

The order, which will almost certainly face legal challenges, amounts to something of a workaround for Trump after the Supreme Court last year blocked the administration from adding a citizenship question to the decennial survey.

It's unclear how the Trump administration would discern each respondent's citizenship.

The decision is sure to alarm lawmakers and advocacy groups who, amid the coronavirus pandemic, were already concerned about minority groups being undercounted in the census and consequently affecting the apportionment of representation and resources for years to come.

The Trump administration previously attempted to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, but Trump dropped the bid to do so after the Supreme Court decision, which said the administration's reasoning was "contrived." (The Hill)


White House Considers Drug Pricing Executive Order, Prompting GOP Pushback


The White House is considering one or more executive orders aimed at lowering drug prices that could come as soon as this week, prompting pushback from some GOP lawmakers and the powerful pharmaceutical industry. 

One idea under discussion, sources say, is to link some U.S. drug prices to the lower prices paid overseas, an idea that is opposed by many Republicans, who see it as a price control that violates free-market principles. 

The looming executive action comes a little more than three months from the election, on an issue that is key to voters. Democrats have been pounding Republicans on the issue of health care, pointing to a President Trump-backed lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act, and executive action on drug prices could be a way for Trump to try to counter on the issue. (The Hill)


Fishers Issues Mask Mandate That Begins Friday


What’s New: Fishers has issued a mask mandate that begins Friday, the city announced Monday night. The Fishers Health Department approved a public health order that requires, with some exceptions, all individuals ages 5 and older to wear a face covering in public indoor spaces or outdoors in situations where a distance of six feet can’t be maintained between people.

The order, which applies to residents and visitors, did not specify an end date. Fishers said the mandate includes:

– retail and grocery stores;

– restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues;

– salons and personal care facilities;

– gyms and fitness centers;

– office and commercial buildings;

– government buildings.

Fishers said public indoor locations that refuse to enforce the mask mandate could experience enforcement actions by the Fishers Health Department. It did not specify what those actions could include or whether individuals would be subject to punishment. (Indianapolis Business Journal)


Holcomb and Other Republican Governors Call for Liability Protection in Letter to Congress


Governors from 21 states sent a letter to congressional leaders this morning pleading that Congress take action to provide common sense civil liability protections to health care workers, businesses, and schools. Republican Senators have indicated liability protections remain their leading priority for inclusion in the next Covid-19 relief package.

The letter can be found here.


OCR Issues Guidance on Civil Rights Protections During Covid-19


Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance to ensure that recipients of federal financial assistance understand they must comply with applicable federal civil rights laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in HHS-funded programs during Covid-19.

The Bulletin, linked here, focuses on recipients' compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VI”).


Senate HELP Committee Chairman Introduces Pandemic Preparation Legislation


Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) yesterday introduced the Preparing for the Next Pandemic Act. The measure would maintain sufficient onshore manufacturing for tests, treatments and vaccines, and rebuild state and federal stockpiles of supplies like masks and ventilators in preparation for the next pandemic the country will face.

The legislation can be found here.


Indiana-based Banks Didn’t Cede PPP Loans to Big Rivals


Indiana-based financial institutions didn’t let the banking giants scoop up all the spoils from the federal Paycheck Protection Program. An IBJ analysis found that, of the 20 banks issuing the most PPP loans to Indiana borrowers, 11 were headquartered in the state—many of which went to extraordinary lengths to extend as many loans as they could.

Indiana’s most active lender through June 30 was New York-based JP Morgan & Chase Bank NA, which made 5,151 loans in Indiana. Chase has the largest market share in Indiana and has $2.3 trillion in assets overall. But Evansville-based Old National Bank, with a comparatively modest $20.3 billion, was right behind, with 4,316 loans. The third-most-active PPP lender is Muncie-based First Merchants Bank, which has $12.4 billion in assets and made 3,547 PPP loans, according to data released this month by the U.S. Small Business Administration, which oversees the PPP program. In total, lenders through June 30 made 79,151 PPP loans to Indiana borrowers.

Banks earn processing fees ranging from 5% for loans under $350,000 to 1% for loans over $2 million. The borrowers won’t have to repay the money if they use it in certain ways, such as for payroll or rent. Congress rolled out the program to help keep small businesses afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, launching April 3 with a $349 billion lending pool. (Indianapolis Business Journal)


E.U. Leaders Agreed This Morning To An $859 Billion Coronavirus Plan


After 90 hours of negotiations over four days in Brussels, the 27 members of the bloc transcended deep-seated divisions to agree to a compromise to rescue the economies of coronavirus-ravaged countries. “The main disagreement between the leaders of a handful of self-dubbed ‘frugal’ countries — the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Denmark and Finland — and their peers was about how much money to ship to hard-hit countries such as Italy and Spain and how much oversight donor countries ought to have over how the funds are spent,” Michael Birnbaum, Quentin Ariès and Loveday Morris from Washington Post report. “To appease them, the portion of grants in the deal was trimmed to $358 billion and the objectors were granted billions more in rebates from their contribution to the shared E.U. budget. … In a win for Hungary and Poland, stipulations that tied access to funds to upholding the rule of law were rolled back in the final draft. Both countries have been censured by Brussels as their leaders have moved against their political opponents and stripped the independence of the judiciary.”


Biden Will Unveil a Plan Today For Universal Preschool, Child Care and Elder Care


“The proposal, which would cost $775 billion over 10 years, would provide universal preschool to 3-and 4-year-old children, fund the construction of new child-care facilities, and offer tax credits and grants to help pay for care positions for the young and the elderly, according to his campaign. It would be funded by rolling back some real estate taxes and by ‘taking steps to increase tax compliance for high-income earners,’ according to the Biden campaign,” Annie Linskey and Matt Viser from Washington Post report. “Biden’s plan would also fund 150,000 community health-care workers, with many targeted to work in low-income and racially diverse areas. It would create a $8,000 tax credit to help low-income families pay for child care. And it would add funding for community colleges so they can provide child care for students.”  


White House Threatens Veto of Defense Bill Over Confederate Provision


The White House on Tuesday threatened to veto annual defense policy legislation in part because it includes a provision that would direct the Pentagon to rename military bases currently named after Confederate leaders.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a statement hours before a House vote on the massive defense policy bill expressing “serious concerns” about multiple provisions of the bill. The White House said that if the bill were presented to President Trump in its current form, “his senior advisors would recommend that he veto it.” 

“The Administration strongly objects to section 2829, which would require renaming of certain military institutions,” the statement reads. “It also has serious concerns about provisions of the bill that seek to micromanage aspects of the executive branch’s authority, impose highly prescriptive limitations on the use of funds for Afghanistan, and otherwise constrain the President’s authority to protect national security interests.” (The Hill)


By The Numbers …


COVID-19 Cases

*New cases: 734

Total cumulative cases reported Tuesday: 57,916

Total cumulative cases reported Monday: 57,206

Increase in cumulative cases: 710

Increase in cases reported July 15-21: 5,231

Increase in cases reported July 8-14: 4,059

COVID-19 Deaths

New deaths: 20

Total deaths: 2,652

Increase in deaths reported July 15-21: 70

Increase in deaths reported July 8-14: 58

County Numbers

Marion County cumulative cases: 12,991 (increase of 148)

Marion County new deaths: 3

Marion County cumulative deaths: 709

Hamilton County cumulative cases: 1,991

Johnson County cumulative cases: 1,464

U.S. and Worldwide numbers As of Tuesday Morning, From Johns Hopkins University:

U.S. cases: 3,845,680

U.S. deaths: 141,118

Global cases: 14,755,228

Global deaths: 611,090


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